My couchsurfing host in Algiers was the nicest and took two days off work when I visited and told me that he could take me anywhere I wanted with his motorbike.
One place I had planned to visit by public transport was Tipaza, just 70 kilometer from the capital, but I am glad I didnt as I would have to walk a lot in the heat from the bus stop. With a bike everything was easy: we stopped at the Royal Mausoleum of Mauritania which is a Berber burial ground looking like a round pyramid and walked for a couple of hours through the ruins in Tipaza city.
Driving back we opted for a detour through Blida where we cought a cable car up to a village called Chrea were locals went to go hiking in the summer and go skiing in the winter.
I had previously thought that Algeria was a country completely covered by desert and was happy to find mountain trails through green forests and drink fresh water straight from the streams.
Algiers must have been one of the Worlds most beautiful cities at its height during the French colonial times. Most of the city is painted in white, giving the city its nickname “leblanche”, but some places it looks as if there has been no paint applied since Algeria got its independence in 1962, and the trash is piling up in the streets.
My favorite place was definitely the Casbah (old city) where you would find kids playing football in the narrow streets and people could sit down with an espresso, newspaper or play soltaire with a deck of cards.
I got to visit the main attractions of the city which was a church called “Notre Dame d’Afrique” and a glowing green monument called the freedom monument. By the monument I met a guy walking his ram, and I asked why there were so many people doing just that. Apparently there is a tradition of ram fighting which happen every year before Eid. People can pay thousands of euros for such sheeps, and walk around to promote their fighters and collect bets.
Ive done dives in many countries and on all continents, but none as polluted as my dives in Algiers.
My first dive was on a Friday afternoon when the busy was at its busiest with kids splashing around in the water. We dove down and spent around an hour on 9-10 meters dept. All I could see were some small fish and an octopus and a lot and lot of trash, just like I did the next day.
After the dive I walked around the streets thinking how sad it was with all the trash over and under the water surface. It was then that me and my friend noticed the Mayor, Abdelhakim Bettache on the other side of the street. We told him what we thought about all the trash in the city and he promised us that he would work on doing something about it.
Kutaisi is not the most interesting city, in fact, it might even be the most boring city that I have visited for months. It has a large square, a simple opera house, a park and a couple of churches and thats it. The reason people are visiting is because the flights there are cheap (60eur to Budapest!) and because there are lots of cool things that can be done around the city.
I had heard good things about the wine in this region and was quick to book a wine tour costing around 20euro including pickup from ny hostel (N4), transfer to Baghdati(45mins) a four course Georgian meal with 4 accompanying wines- a great deal! The best part of it was that it did not feel like a commercial tour at all. The driver felt like my friend and the wineyard we visited welcomed us like we were family, explaining passionate not only about their wines but also about their food, history and culture.
I also met a French guy who had just bought a car and wanted to take it for a spin to Martvili Canyon. The Canyon is famous for its turquoise water and beaches where locals and tourist come to relax and sometimes have a picknick. The rock walls in the canyon were perfect for practising bouldering skills as the water provided a safe, but cold landing every time I would fall.
Mestia is a beautiful Swiss alp like city situated in between Mountain tops of over 4000meters. People were building hostels and restaurants there like crazy, and I think this place will be transformed into a very popular tourist destination within 5 years.
I spent one day exploring the town, walking up one of the many defensive towers that the city is so famous for and hiked to Koruldi Lake. That is when I met two Norwegians who had rented a car and offered me to come with them the next morning.
Live music and local dancing in Mestia
They were headed to Ushguli, a UNESCO heritage village and one of the highest continiusly inhabited villages in Europe. It is known as the most remote village in Georgia, but now that they have fixed up the roads it took us no longer than 2,5 hours to get there. A fifteen minute walk around was enough to see the village before we were were on our way to Tbilisi.
The road to Mestia passed a beautiful dam with turquise water
We didnt get far before we came to Khaishi, a village where there were protests against a dam that was going to force hundreds to move from their homes. We watched as more than a hundred police officers were facing the locals who were carrying baseball bats, logs and farming tools. Fortunately for all parts the protest did not escalate and get violeny as the partiets got together to discuss while 9 tv stations were filming the debate on the street. The discussions went on until after midnight when they suddenly decided to open the gates and let us pass through, which was quite a relief!
The protesters got a lot of attention from local media